I’m sure you’ve heard of the burgeoning global protests against the anti-Islam video “Innocence of Muslims”. While most can agree that the video is indeed denigrating and disrespectful, what is debatable is whether such acts (and judging from the violent responses it has generated) warrant criminal investigation and legal action? Do we take them to task in order to quell somewhat the violent reactions, or simply choose to wave it off while extolling the freedom of speech and shaking our heads at the violent protests?
Professor of Religious Studies Anthea Butler argues that yes, the masterminds behind the video deserve to be arrested given the dishonest nature of its production and the global repercussions it has costs for both western and middle-eastern worlds alike:
So why did I tweet that Bacile should be in jail? The “free speech” in Bacile’s film is not about expressing a personal opinion about Islam. It denigrates the religion by depicting the faith’s founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers. Even the film’s actors say they were duped […] Bacile indirectly and inadvertently inflamed people half a world away, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Embassy personnel.
Adam Lee, a Big Think and Daylight Atheism blogger, argues how calls to arrest the film producers are ludicrous and symbolically bows down to the demands of the protesters:
With all that said, however, I have to admit that there’s no moral equivalence to be drawn here. The free expression of opinions, however reprehensible those opinions are, isn’t a crime against human rights. Violence is. The producers of the film (who are apparently trying to stay in the shadows) may well hold false or bigoted opinions about Islam. But if their intent was to enrage Muslims and provoke them into violence against innocent people, thereby demonstrating that Islam is a backward and violent religion… well, they’ve made their point.
What is your opinion on the matter? Do you agree more with Butler in that the negative impacts of such actions justify due punishment? Or with Lee in that while we denounce such videos, arresting the film-makers would be a compromise of ‘western’ values of freedom of expression and speech?
OR, are both writers missing the point here? Was this video merely a trigger that blew wide open larger anxieties and tensions between the two ‘civilizations’ (ala Samuel Huntington)?